Holland's record is in jeopardy

MATT Holland's spectacular run of consecutive league appearances for Ipswich Town looks in danger of coming to an end in a fortnight's time, writes Tony Garnett.

MATT Holland's spectacular run of consecutive league appearances for Ipswich Town looks in danger of coming to an end in a fortnight's time, writes Tony Garnett.

Holland, who reached the landmark of a 250th successive league outing at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, has been named in the Republic of Ireland squad to face Georgia and Albania on March 29 and April 4.

Ipswich have a scheduled fixture at Gillingham on the first of those dates that can only be postponed if the club has two further international call-ups.

Hermann Hreidarsson's gashed thigh has put him out of contention for Iceland. Ipswich therefore hope that Darren Ambrose and Darren Bent will be called up at England Under-21 level, which is far from certain.

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Ipswich, hard hit by injury, take on Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough today (kick-off 3pm). Town should still have the quality to enable them to complete the double and keep alive their play-off hopes.

Defender Chris Makin is the latest casualty with a tight hamstring sustained on Tuesday. Neither he nor Ambrose have made the trip to Yorkshire, the latter still feeling the effects of the foul by Craig Fleming in the East Anglian derby match at Carrow Road.

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Today's formation depends largely on two late fitness tests. Tommy Miller came through training yesterday but is still a doubt because of his hamstring. Teenage defender Matt Richards took a blow on his leg at Crystal Palace and manager Joe Royle said: "Matt has the best chance of the two."

Ipswich are so short of established central defenders that Richard Naylor looks sure to play alongside Thomas Gaardsoe once again. Naylor did exceptionally well at Selhurst Park and could make the position his own.

Fabian Wilnis has been in the wars but will make light of minor knocks while Jermaine Wright may be used at the back in an emergency.

Skipper Holland was restored to central midfield at Crystal Palace where he twice went close with a first-half header that was touched over the bar by goalkeeper Cedric Berthelin and a second-half volley that was also well saved.

Jim Magilton, who was signed from Sheffield Wednesday for around £700,000 in January 1999, will be on familiar territory. There may be an opportunity for Martijn Reuser, who has match-winning qualities.

Up front Ipswich still have Marcus Bent, the interest of Fulham earlier in the week having evaporated. Pablo Counago may start. The young Spaniard will be anxious to make up for lost time after his four-match ban. He appeared from off the bench in the 54th minute at Selhurst Park which will have helped him towards regaining full match fitness.

Joe Royle said that Darren Bent needed a rest. This means that he could be on the bench, ready to unleash against a tiring Wednesday defence in the later stages.

Sixteen-year-old Dean Bowditch was unused at Crystal Palace, but he made an impact when introduced at Wolves and will be very much in the manager's thinking.

Academy players Matt Bloomfield and Ian Westlake have made the trip while Dutchman Nabil Abidallah will be hoping for a rare opportunity to show his worth.

Today's squads

Sheffield Wednesday: Evans; Westwood, Monk, Smith, Barry-Murphy, Reddy, Powell, McLaren, Quinn, Kuqi, Bradbury, Pressman, Crane, Haslam, Maddix, Owusu, Knight and Green.

Ipswich Town: Marshall; Wilnis, Naylor, Gaardsoe, Richards, Magilton, Holland, Wright, Miller, M Bent, Counago, D Bent, Reuser, Pullen, Abidallah, Bloomfield, Bowditch and Westlake.

Referee: Mr Frazer Stretton (Nottingham).

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